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Monthly Archives: October 2017 − News

Heli­co­p­ter crash: wreck soon to be lifted

The wreck of the Rus­si­an heli­co­p­ter that cras­hed into Isfjord last week was iden­ti­fied on pho­tos taken by a dive robo­ter from the rese­arch ves­sel Ossi­an Sars. The MI-8 heli­co­p­ter is lying on the sea floor at a depth of 209 metres in Isfjord, about 2 km from the Rus­si­an heli­co­p­ter base at Hee­rod­den clo­se to Bar­ents­burg.

One body was found in a distance of 130 metres to the wreck. It is alrea­dy in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The­re is no hope that any of the 8 peop­le in the heli­co­p­ter, 5 crew and 3 sci­en­tists, sur­vi­ved.

The Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ty for traf­fic dis­as­ters (Sta­tens hava­ri­kom­mis­jon for trans­port, SHT) is now in char­ge of fur­ther inves­ti­ga­ti­ons. A sal­va­ge ves­sel is expec­ted to arri­ve in Lon­gye­ar­by­en on Thurs­day. The uplif­ting ope­ra­ti­ons will start as soon as the ves­sel is in posi­ti­on at the acci­dent site. Rus­si­an spe­cia­lists are in Lon­gye­ar­by­en to sup­port the Nor­we­gi­an for­ces under Nor­we­gi­an lea­ders­hip. When the wreck is lifted, it will be taken to the Nor­we­gi­an main­land for fur­ther inves­ti­ga­ti­ons. SHT is cur­r­ent­ly con­duc­ting inter­views with wit­nes­ses and collec­ting various data inclu­ding wea­ther, the con­di­ti­on of the heli­co­p­ter, qua­li­fi­ca­ti­on of the crew and more.

Pho­to by a dive robo­ter of the rese­arch ves­sel Ossi­an Sars used to iden­ti­fy the wreck (image © G.O. Sars).

helicopter wreck.

Source: SHT

Heli­co­p­ter crash: wreck found

The wreck of the Rus­si­an heli­co­p­ter that went mis­sing on Thurs­day after­noon is now most likely found. A ROV (Remo­te­ly Ope­ra­ted Vehi­cle) of the Nor­we­gi­an Navy has loca­li­zed an object at a depth of 209 metres on the sea floor that appears to be the wreck of the MI-8 heli­co­p­ter. The ROV named “Hugin” and ano­t­her ROV of the rese­arch ves­sel Ossi­an Sars will con­ti­nue to gather data to iden­ti­fy the object and to find the mis­sing per­sons. The­re were 8 peop­le in the heli­co­p­ter when it cras­hed on Thurs­day. No traces of sur­vi­vors could be found.

The posi­ti­on is 2.2 kilo­me­tres nor­the­ast of the Rus­si­an heli­co­p­ter base at Hee­rod­den clo­se to Bar­ents­burg.

A Rus­si­an aero­pla­ne has brought divers and other spe­cia­lists from Rus­sia to Lon­gye­ar­by­en to take part in the ope­ra­ti­on under Nor­we­gi­an lea­ders­hip.

Diving robo­ter Hugin of the Nor­we­gi­an navy sear­ching after the cras­hed heli­co­p­ter near Hee­rod­den.

Diving roboter Hugin close to Heerodden.

Sources: NRK, Sval­bard­pos­ten

Heli­co­p­ter­crash: litt­le hope to find sur­vi­vors

The­re is no cer­tain­ty yet if the object that was loca­ted by echo­lot in a depth of 200-250 metres on the sea floor in Isfjord, not far from the Rus­si­an heli­co­p­ter base at Hee­rod­den clo­se to Bar­ents­burg, actual­ly is the wreck of the heli­co­p­ter. But the­re is no doubt that the MI-8 heli­co­p­ter did crash into Isfjord yes­ter­day. As more than 20 hours have gone by sin­ce the crash and the­re is no trace yet of any sur­vi­vors, hopes to find any of the 8 peop­le on board are get­ting smal­ler and smal­ler and the worst has to be fea­red.

Names of the 8 per­sons on board were alrea­dy yes­ter­day released by Rus­si­an media. Now, also the respon­si­ble Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ty, the Res­cue Cent­re North Nor­way, has released the names offi­cial­ly.

The per­sons on board the heli­co­p­ter were

Pas­sen­gers (Sci­en­tists of the Insti­tuts for Arc­tic and Ant­arc­tic Rese­arch in St. Peters­burg):
Oleg Golo­va­nov
Niko­laj Fade­jev
Mak­sim Kau­lio


Jev­ge­nij Bara­nov – Chief pilot
Vla­di­mir Frolov – Second pilot
Alek­sej Poul­jaus­kas – Mecha­nic
Marat Mikht­arov – Tech­ni­ci­an
Alek­sej Korol­jov – Engi­neer

The­re is hope until the oppo­si­te is pro­ven, and every effort is taken to con­ti­nue the search and find sur­vi­vors. Nor­we­gi­an SAR for­ces are on loca­ti­on with heli­co­p­ters, a spe­cial aero­pla­ne from the Nor­we­gi­an air­for­ce, ships and boats. But the more time is going by, the more likely it seems that it is a tra­ge­dy without sur­vi­vors.

The Sys­sel­man­nen has estab­lis­hed a con­ta­ct pho­ne num­ber for rela­ti­ves and expres­ses deep sym­pa­thy with tho­se who are affec­ted. This is shared by the aut­hor of the­se lines, who­se thoughts and sym­pa­thy are also with tho­se who were in the heli­co­p­ter and their fami­ly, friends and col­leagues and all others who are invol­ved.

Accord­ing to inter­na­tio­nal law, Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ties are respon­si­ble for the inves­ti­ga­ti­on of the acci­dent. A hava­ry com­mis­si­on is alrea­dy in Lon­gye­ar­by­en and will soon start to gather all infor­ma­ti­on that is avail­ab­le. But cur­r­ent­ly, the effort to find sur­vi­vors and the heli­co­p­ter are still the focus of all efforts.

Rus­si­an MI-8 heli­co­p­ter at the air­port Lon­gye­ar­by­en (archi­ve image).

Russian airport Spitsbergen.

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen, Sval­bard­pos­ten

Cras­hed heli­co­p­ter pro­bab­ly found

The Rus­si­an heli­co­p­ter that cras­hed on Thurs­day after­noon is pro­bab­ly found. Search-and-res­cue for­ces sen­sed a strong smell of fuel and saw air bub­bles com­ing to the water sur­face at a cer­tain posi­ti­on in the area in ques­ti­on, in Isfjord, about 2-3 km from the heli­co­p­ter base at Hee­rod­den. A ship has found an object on the sea floor with the echo­lot that could be the wreck of the heli­co­p­ter or a part of it. This needs to be con­fir­med, though. The depth is bet­ween 200 and 250 metres, far bey­ond the reach of divers.

Alrea­dy during the night, a diving robot (ROV = Remo­te­ly Ope­ra­ted Vehi­cle) was brought from main­land Nor­way to Lon­gye­ar­by­en with a SAS pla­ne. The ROV will be ope­ra­ted at the alle­ged acci­dent site as soon as pos­si­ble. This has pro­bab­ly alrea­dy hap­pen­ed at the time of wri­ting (08.30 local time on Fri­day morning) or it may be going on right now.

The­re were 8 per­sons on board the heli­co­p­ter, and the search after sur­vi­vors is going on. SAR for­ces are sear­ching the near­by coast, east of Hee­rod­den. Heli­co­p­ters and ships are scan­ning the water. Accord­ing to all that is known, the worst has to be fea­red, but all efforts are taken to find sur­vi­vors. The Rus­si­an heli­co­p­ter was of the type MI-8, which is equip­ped with a life raft and with lif­ting bodies that keep the heli­co­p­ter afloat at least for a while in case of a con­trol­led emer­gen­cy lan­ding on the water sur­face. The fact that no emer­gen­cy signal was released by the crew makes it howe­ver doubt­ful that it was a con­trol­led emer­gen­cy lan­ding. A sud­den, uncon­trol­led crash seems likely. Wit­nes­ses say they have heard a loud noi­se like a bang at the time in ques­ti­on.

Next to the 2 Nor­we­gi­an SAR heli­co­p­ters, the­re is a num­ber of ships and boats in the area: Polar­sys­sel (Sys­sel­man­nen), coast guard and boats from the tou­rism indus­try in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Initi­al­ly, the visi­bi­li­ty was redu­ced by snow fall, but the wea­ther is by now qui­te good, with litt­le wind and clear visi­bi­li­ty. The polar night has begun a cou­p­le of days ago, so even around noon, the sun remains below the hori­zon, making light very scar­ce.

Light con­di­ti­ons in Isfjord during the polar night around noon. The bright light is the moon. (Archi­ve image.)

Polar night, Isfjord.

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

Rus­si­an heli­co­p­ter cras­hed near Bar­ents­burg

The­re will be updates (see bot­tom end of this arti­cle) as fur­ther infor­ma­ti­on beco­mes avail­ab­le.

A Rus­si­an MI-8 heli­co­p­ter cras­hed near Bar­ents­burg and fell into the sea in Isfjord. The heli­co­p­ter was on the way from Pyra­mi­den to Bar­ents­burg with 8 per­sons on board.

The emer­gen­cy call from the air­port tower Lon­gye­ar­by­en was recei­ved at 15.35 local time by the emer­gen­cy respon­se cent­re North Nor­way. Nor­we­gi­an search and res­cue (SAR) for­ces are on loca­ti­on with heli­co­p­ter and ships. The crash site is in the Isfjord, 2-3 kilo­me­tres away from Hee­rod­den, the Rus­si­an heli­co­p­ter base at Bar­ents­burg.

No infor­ma­ti­on is cur­r­ent­ly avail­ab­le regar­ding the con­di­ti­on of the 8 per­sons on board. The­re is a bree­ze (7-8 m/s) and the visi­bi­li­ty is affec­ted by snow­fall.

Accord­ing to Nor­we­gi­an law, the Rus­si­an heli­co­p­ters in Spits­ber­gen are only allo­wed to fly for com­pa­ny pur­po­ses. Char­ter flights, for examp­le for film teams or sci­en­tists, are not per­mit­ted. This makes it likely that the 8 peop­le on board were employees of the owner of the heli­co­p­ter, Trust Ark­ti­ku­gol.

Update: next to the pilot (Bara­nov Evge­ny), co-pilot (Frolov Vla­di­mir), flight engi­neer (Ale­xei Pou­ly­aus­kas), a tech­ni­ci­an (Mihtar Marat), and an engi­neer (Koro­lev Alek­sey), the­re were 3 sci­en­tists of the Insti­tu­te for Arc­tic and Ant­arc­tic Rese­arch in St. Peters­burg on board: Golo­va­nov Oleg, Fadeev Nicho­las, Kau­lio Mak­sim. The names were released in the Rus­si­an press.

Update: Dmi­trij Zjel­jazkov, direc­tor of Kon­vers Avia, the com­pa­ny that owns and ope­ra­tes the heli­co­p­ter, has told the Rus­si­an news agen­cy Tass that the 3 pas­sen­gers were miners of the Trust Ark­ti­ku­gol.

Rus­si­an MI-8 heli­co­p­ter at the air­port Lon­gye­ar­by­en (archi­ve image).

Russian airport Spitsbergen.

Source: NRK

Spits­ber­gen-calen­dar 2018: fro­zen water­fall in Janu­a­ry

In the high arc­tic, Janu­a­ry is icy cold – usual­ly at least. Some­ti­mes, spells of mild air mas­ses from the Atlan­tic can bring tem­pe­ra­tures fluc­tua­ting around zero degrees and rain. That was not total­ly unknown in the first half of the 20th cen­tu­ry eit­he, but it is cer­tain­ly more fre­quent in the times of cli­ma­te chan­ge. But nor­mal­ly, it is real­ly cold! The tem­pe­ra­tures will make every river and every water­fall free­ze solid.

The Janu­a­ry page of the Spits­ber­gen calen­dar 2018 shows the water­fall Hyperitt­fos­sen in De Geerda­len, about 20 km nor­the­ast of Lon­gye­ar­by­en as the ivory gull flies. The water­mas­ses that fall down over basaltic rock cliffs are qui­te impres­si­ve in the sum­mer. Now in the win­ter, the water is fro­zen to crea­te struc­tures like organ pipes. I used a rather extre­me 11 mm wide ang­le len­se to cap­tu­re the per­spec­ti­ve. It is not every year that the shapes of the fro­zen water­fall are so impres­si­ve: when I took this pan­ora­ma of Hyperitt­fos­sen some years ago, most of the icy struc­tures were hid­den under snow.

Spitsbergen-Calendar 2018: January. Frozen waterfall

Spits­ber­gen-Calen­dar 2018: Janu­a­ry. Fro­zen water­fall.

The Spits­ber­gen-calen­der 2018: nort­hern lights over Lon­gye­ar­by­en in Decem­ber

The nort­hern light is for the polar night what the polar bears are for the sum­mer: ever­y­bo­dy wants to see them. The nort­hern light, or Auro­ra borea­lis, is inde­ed a majes­tic phe­no­me­non! If you have ever seen a real one, you will for sure not for­get it. The­re is an info page about nort­hern lights and nort­hern light pho­to­gra­phy on this web­site, by the way. The sea­son is about to begin.

Actual­ly, Lon­gye­ar­by­en is not even the best place to see nort­hern lights. If you are on an Auro­ra mis­si­on, then nort­hern Scan­di­na­via may be just as good, if not bet­ter. But of cour­se you can see fan­tastic nort­hern lights in Spits­ber­gen! With some luck, you can even see then mid-day. This day­si­de auro­ra is com­pa­ra­tively rare, but they do hap­pen. Hard to belie­ve, but true! This requi­res real darkness 24 hours a day, and that is what you get in Lon­gye­ar­by­en from late Novem­ber to ear­ly Janu­a­ry.

The Decem­ber-pho­to of our Spits­ber­gen-calen­dar 2018 was taken ear­ly evening. We went around in Lon­gye­ar­by­en with a TV team and they wan­ted norhtern lights – of cour­se. Ris­ky busi­ness if you don’t have more time than just a very few days! May­be you are lucky, may­be not … both the wea­ther and the auro­ra acti­vi­ty have to be on your side. We had alrea­dy been around for a long evening without see­ing more than dark clouds. A day later, things were more pro­mi­sing. And sud­den­ly, the sky explo­ded over Lon­gye­ar­by­en! It was inde­ed one of my bet­ter Auro­ra moments in Spits­ber­gen. The pho­to does not even show the stron­gest nort­hern light of that evening, but Lady Auro­ra was dan­cing abo­ve this part of the ico­nic coal cable­way and Pla­tå­ber­get, a very cha­rac­te­ris­tic and well-known moun­tain right next to Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Spitsbergen-Calender 2018: December. Northern light above Longyearbyen

Spits­ber­gen-Calen­der 2018: Decem­ber. Nort­hern light abo­ve Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Born in Sau­na: Alex­an­der Lembke’s Sau­na exhi­bi­ti­on ope­ned in Tam­pe­re

Alex­an­der Lembke is well known to many who have tra­vel­led with us in recent years in Spits­ber­gen. Many have heard about his pro­ject of sci­ence, pho­to­gra­phy and prac­ti­cal use of the Fin­nish sau­na.

Now, the pro­ject has reached a (preli­mi­na­ry) cli­max: the exhi­bi­ti­on “Sau­na Syn­tyneet (Born in Sau­na)” was ope­ned on Fri­day, Octo­ber 13, in Tam­pe­re in Fin­land. The exhi­bi­ti­on was sup­por­ted by orga­niz­a­ti­ons inclu­ding the Goe­the-Insti­tut, the town of Tam­pe­re and the Fin­nish Sau­na Socie­ty. Their repre­sen­ta­ti­ves were pre­sent at the ope­ning and held speaches.

Alexander’s work is about the important role of sau­na in Fin­nish cul­tu­re, histo­ry and socie­ty. The cur­rent exhi­bi­ti­on is about peop­le who were actual­ly born in a sau­na. A sau­na is regu­lar­ly hea­ted and clea­ned and it is a place of spi­ri­tua­li­ty, which altog­e­ther makes it a place well sui­ted of events such as giving birth. Peop­le were born in sau­na in Fin­land also in recent years, also it is much less com­mon than in the more distant past. The exhi­bi­ti­on shows lar­ge por­traits of peop­le who were born in sau­na. In poe­tic films, they tell their sto­ries about their indi­vi­du­al rela­ti­ons­hip to the sau­na and their sau­na ritu­als. The youn­gest per­son por­trai­ted in the exhi­bi­ti­on is 5 years old now, the oldest one is 102! Some of the­se peop­le, who were born in sau­na, were pre­sent during the ope­ning.

If you hap­pen to come to Tam­pe­re until Novem­ber 24, 2017, then you have got the oppor­tu­ni­ty to visit the exhi­bi­ti­on “Sau­nassa Syn­tyneet (Born in Sau­na)”.

Alex­an­der Lembke during the opeing of the exhi­bi­ti­on “Sau­nassa Syn­tyneet (Born in Sau­na)” on Fri­day in Tam­pe­re.

Exhibition Saunassa Syntyneet (Born in Sauna), Alexander Lembke, Tampere.

Coal mining in Sveagru­va is histo­ry

The Nor­we­gi­an government in Oslo has deci­ded that the coal mine in Lunck­ef­jel­let near Sveagru­va will not come into pro­duc­ti­ve ope­ra­ti­on. The mine was ope­ned in 2014 but sin­ce then, it has only been dri­ven in stand­by mode.

The mining com­pa­ny Store Nor­ske has suf­fe­red bad­ly from low pri­ces on the world mar­kets for coal for years (see for examp­le Store Nor­ske bai­lout, May 2015). Near 300 employees had to lea­ve, only about 100 are left.

The­se remai­ning ones will not be able to enjoy their jobs for many years eit­her, sin­ce Nor­we­gi­an Secreta­ry of Sta­te for Tra­de and Indus­try Moni­ca Mæland anoun­ced on Octo­ber 12, 2017, that the government will not sup­port rene­wed pro­duc­ti­ve mining in Sveagru­va, name­ly Lunck­ef­jel­let. Fur­ther pro­duc­tion without finan­cial sup­port from Oslo is not pos­si­ble. The government is also the owner of the mining com­pa­ny Store Nor­ske. Neit­her the government nor Store Nor­ske are inte­res­ted in kee­ping the cur­rent stand­by ope­ra­ti­on upright.

As a result, the next cou­p­le of years will see the pha­se­out of mining acti­vi­ties in Sveagru­va and a big gene­ral cleanup of the place. This will, at least, keep most of today’s employees in Store Nor­ske busy.

It is also said that the government does not plan major alter­na­ti­ve acti­vi­ties in Sveagru­va, such as tou­rism or sci­ence. It is, howe­ver, not exclu­ded that some buil­dings may be used for the­se pur­po­ses.

The decisi­on does not affect coal mining in mine 7 near Lon­gye­ar­by­en, which is taking place on a com­pa­ra­tively small sca­le to sup­ply the local power plant and minor volu­mes for export.

Soon histo­ry: Nor­we­gi­an coal mining in Sval­bard.

Coal mining, Svalbard.

Source: NRK

Spits­ber­gen-calen­dar 2018: Novem­ber intro­du­ced

The next image from the Spits­ber­gen calen­dar 2018 is the mon­th Novem­ber. It shows a small group of Spits­ber­gen rein­de­er. The­se shed their ant­lers once every year. The exact time is dif­fe­rent for males and fema­les. It also varies indi­vi­du­al­ly, to some degree.

This small herd of rein­de­er shows all varia­ti­ons in their ant­lers: one does not have ant­lers at all, one dones only have one half and the third one has got the full set of ant­lers!

The pho­to shows rein­de­er in a win­ter envi­ron­ment at Dia­ba­sod­den in Sas­sen­fjord. In the ear­ly win­ter, rein­de­er have got their fat reser­ves, next to the meag­re vege­ta­ti­on that is most­ly hid­den under snow. Later, when the fat reser­ves are used up and the tun­dra is still under snow and ice, the risk from star­va­ti­on will incre­a­se stron­gly.

Spitsbergen-Calendar 2018: November. Reindeer

Spits­ber­gen-Calen­dar 2018: Novem­ber. A group of Spits­ber­gen-rein­de­er with dif­fe­rent varia­ti­ons of their ant­lers.

Lon­gye­ar­by­en ceme­tery may be moved becau­se of avalan­che risk

The ceme­tery of Lon­gye­ar­by­en has been in a calm part of the val­ley Lon­gye­arda­len for about a cen­tu­ry, bet­ween the church and Huset, the old town mee­ting place. It is still an acti­ve ceme­tery, the last buri­als were in 2013 and the­re may be more in the future. Only urn buri­als are allo­wed, howe­ver.

The loca­ti­on of the ceme­tery is calm, but may­be not calm enough in the long term. The steep moun­tain slo­pes near­by have pro­du­ced avalan­ches in recent years, most­ly landslips after peri­ods of rain, which have reached the ter­rain around the ceme­tery. In the last sum­mer, even the road bet­ween the church and Huset was clo­sed for pro­lon­ged peri­ods. It is pro­bab­ly only a ques­ti­on of time until the ceme­tery its­elf is hit and bad­ly dama­ged.

This is a sce­n­a­rio which Lon­gye­ar­by­en church with priest Leif Magne Hel­ge­sen are not wil­ling to accept. Hel­ge­sen has taken initia­ti­ve and star­ted a deba­te which may lead to a relo­ca­ti­on of the ceme­tery. It is a place of peace and digni­ty, for which many peop­le have strong fee­lings, accord­ing to Hel­ge­sen. He rea­sons that it would accord­in­gly be irre­spon­si­ble to lea­ve the ceme­tery in a place whe­re it may suf­fer bad dama­ge.

First mee­tings with aut­ho­ri­ties like the Sys­sel­man­nen, who is respon­si­ble for monu­ment con­ser­va­ti­on, and the local admin­stra­ti­on have taken place. Aut­ho­ri­ties in Lon­gye­ar­by­en have expe­ri­ence with moving and secu­ring gra­ves from his­to­ri­cal gra­ves that are threa­tened by coas­tal ero­si­on. Moving a who­le ceme­tery would, howe­ver, be a pro­ject of an ent­i­re­ly dif­fe­rent sca­le. Also rela­ti­ves will have to be invol­ved.

A new loca­ti­on would natu­ral­ly be near the church, which is a quiet part of Lon­gye­ar­by­en and has are­as that are not at risk from avalan­ches and lands­li­des.

The ceme­tery in Lon­gye­ar­by­en may be moved due to the risk of lands­li­des and avalan­ches.

Cemetery Longyearbyen.

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

Spits­ber­gen-calen­dar 2018: the sto­ries behind 2 mon­ths

The Sep­tem­ber-page of our Spits­ber­gen-calen­dar 2018

Spitzbergen-Kalender 2018: September. Walrusses and polar fox

Spits­ber­gen-Calen­der 2018: Sep­tem­ber. Wal­rus­ses and polar fox.

… shows a group of wal­rus­ses on the beach at Smee­ren­burg on Ams­ter­damøya doing what wal­rus­ses do best: slee­ping and diges­ting mus­sels. While we keep a respect­ful distance of a good 30 m in order not to dis­turb the wal­rus­ses during their nap, a chee­ky polar fox which does not care about regu­la­ti­ons and distan­ces runs direct­ly next to the wal­rus­ses! Who could not care less about the polar fox.

The polar fox left as quick­ly and unex­pec­ted­ly as it came, and only this snapshot remains from the memo­r­able encoun­ter.

And the Octo­ber-page …

Spitsbergen-Calender 2018: October. Bråsvellbreen, Nordaustland from a bird's eye view.

Spits­ber­gen-Calen­der 2018: Octo­ber. Brås­vell­breen, Nord­aus­t­land from a bird’s eye view.

… shows Brås­vell­breen. This migh­ty gla­cier belongs to the ice cap of Aus­t­fon­na on Nord­aus­t­land. The size is over­whel­ming, the ice cap has a total area of about 8500 squa­re kilo­me­tres! The gla­cier Brås­vell­breen is only a small part of that. It is well-known for the water­falls that are cas­ca­ding down the ice cliff during the mel­ting sea­son. Here, we see it from a bird’s eye per­spec­ti­ve!

Click here for more infor­ma­ti­on about the Spits­ber­gen calen­dar 2018.

White hump­back wha­le again seen in Sval­bard

White hump­back wha­les are a very rare phe­no­me­non. Glo­bal­ly, sci­en­tists know of three indi­vi­du­als. Two of them live in Aus­tra­li­an waters and a third one in the north Atlan­tic. The lat­ter one has recent­ly been seen again for the first time in years. First sightin­gs date back to 2004 and 2006, then near the north Nor­way coast. In August 2012, a white hump­back wha­le was sigh­ted several times east of Spits­ber­gen. It was most likely the same ani­mal as in 2004 and 2006. No pho­tos are known from tho­se ear­ly sightin­gs, but in 2012, a num­ber of ama­zing shots were taken. Espe­cial­ly note­wor­thy are tho­se taken by Dan Fisher, mate on the sai­ling ship Anti­gua, from the mast of the ship. Due to the high per­spec­ti­ve, almost the who­le ani­mal can be seen on the pho­tos.

Hump­back wha­les live in all of the world’s oce­ans. They are usual­ly most­ly dark grey to black. The bot­tom side and parts of the flu­ke and flip­pers are part­ly white. The exact pat­tern can be used to iden­ti­fy indi­vi­du­als, just like the fin­ger­print of humans.

Com­ple­te­ly white hump­back wha­les are very rare. The unusu­al colour is usual­ly due to leu­cism, a par­ti­al loss of pig­men­ta­ti­on which leads to pale or white colour. Only one of the two white hump­back wha­les in Aus­tra­lia is actual­ly an albi­no.

Now, the­re has been a sigh­t­ing of a white hump­back wha­le in the north Atlan­tic, the first one sin­ce 2012. The wha­le was seen in late Sep­tem­ber by sci­en­tists on board the rese­arch ves­sel Johan Hjort in eas­tern Sval­bard. This area is often fre­quen­ted by hump­back wha­les at this time of the year.

White hump­back wha­le in Hin­lo­pen Strait, pho­to­gra­phed on August 11 2012 by Dan Fisher.

White humpback whale

Source: Hav­forsk­nings­in­sti­tuttet


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